Cognition Episode 4 - The Cain Killer is the gripping conclusion of the first season of the Erika Reed Thrillers by Phoenix Online Studios. From start to finish this game has pulled no punches and made no apologies. If you haven’t read any of my other reviews or played any part of this game, stop reading now, go pick up a copy of Episode 1 and play it. By the end you’ll be hooked and very happy that there are three more episodes for you to play. For everyone else, SPOILERS AWAIT YOU.
Episode 4 is a climax and a conclusion, with very little else going on. At this point in the series you are expected to know who the characters are, why they’re doing what they’re doing and why. There is a brief re-cap of everything that has come before to remind players what they’ve already been through, but that’s about all the back story you get. It starts out serious and builds from there - at no point during play did I feel like I was in a safe calm space where I could catch my breath. The character’s tone and the intensity of the music drives you forward, and you'll need to think fast and make quick decisions to succeed. The pressure this game builds is spectacular. Episode 4 also has the addition of a trust meter that shows you how well you’re getting along with the people around you, how your reactions affect their feeling towards you and how willing they are to help you, which adds to the feeling of agency that really drives this episode.
The story picks up from the shocking end of Episode 3, in which you find Keith Smith, aka The Cain Killer, locked in the basement on the EnthonTowers and in the confusion shoot your partner John. Erika is forced to continue to work with Cordelia Smith, aka The Oracle, in order to find and finally stop Keith. Not until the very last few seconds of the game though do you really know which side Cordelia is on, and what her ultimate goals are. I’m not going to spoil the ending totally but my God I don’t think I took a single breath for the entire last twenty minutes. I will say this though getting some of the puzzles wrong can have some very conclusive consequences.
Throughout the episode there are hints about what Season Two might be like if there is one, there is a definite suggestion that the story will continue, or that at least that there will be more adventures in store for Erika Reed, which I’m curiously optimistic about. I’d like to see more happen with this character, as I think there are still many depths to be explored. I can’t say for certain that there will be a Season Two, but I hope so.
All that being said, this episode does feel very puzzle heavy. Granted, you’ve done your investigations, you know who the killer is, you know how to find him and now you just have to do that and stop him, so there isn’t much call for actual investigation - the mystery is solved. So while the puzzles do fit right into the story, it does feel like you’re jumping from one puzzle to the next, which at times gets a little samey. But again, Episode 4 is the climax and the conclusion of Season One, and at this point you are just running from one puzzle to the next trying to stop a serial killer.
As always, the voice acting was impeccable, the writing top-notch, the music spectacular. The guys at Phoenix Online Studios have clearly put their hearts and souls into this project, and it shows. As a reviewer, I enjoy the perk of getting these games given to me for free, as a gamer I believe it’s important to support the companies that create the games that you love so they can continue to do so. So, I bought myself the season pass on Steam because I want these guys to do well, and you can also get the game direct from their website or GOG. I love the work they do, I love the way they do it, and I want them to be able to continue to do some more.